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European Council Meetings (Continued)

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 802 No. 1

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  4 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams] This has come from the heads of mission of the European Union, that the issue was not raised, contrary to the Taoiseach's commitment. My question was what actions had been taken on foot of the report, but if it was not even discussed, what is the point?

Has the Taoiseach raised within the European Council the recent Israeli attack in Syria? I am sure he agrees that this is a serious escalation of what is an increasingly dangerous, ongoing, deadly conflict in the region.

The meeting held six or seven weeks ago was about economic policy and dealt specifically with the issues of growth and job creation. There has been a reluctant acknowledgement that the policy of austerity is not working, but there is no evidence that this goes beyond the rhetoric and of any real change towards growth and job creation. Within the eurozone there are almost 20 million citizens out of work and 6 million young people across the European Union are out of work. Here, the level of youth unemployment is 30%, while it is 24% generally across the eurozone. Our 30% level of youth unemployment does not take account of the scores of thousands of young people who have had to leave for other parts of the world.

I have raised the issue several times with the Taoiseach that there are dire social consequences to the so-called austerity policy. This can be seen in the absence of young people from the kitchen table. In the Taoiseach's county it can be seen in the inability of senior teams to field a full panel. Travelling through rural Ireland, one sees how devastated communities are by the scourge of emigration. Was there an acknowledgement of any of this at the meeting? The sum of €6 billion allocated over six years to tackle youth unemployment is insulting. It is almost offensive and only a drop in the ocean compared to what is required. Last night the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste were engaged in discussions on the EU budget or the multi-annual financial framework. Was there a focus on the issue of youth unemployment?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny European Council meetings are structured in a way that allows the High Representative, Catherine Ashton, to give reports on issues such as the situation in Syria or other incidents and circumstances in that region. Therefore, it is not a case of having a specific debate at European Council level on the Jerusalem or any other report; rather, the structure of meetings is such that Catherine Ashton gives an updated report which has come through the various committees and the Council of Foreign Affairs Ministers with which she deals. I recall that she gave a detailed report on Syria and the considerations involved regarding the difficulty as to whether increased arms supplies should be given to rebel forces. I read reports on allegations of Sarin gas being used by elements in the rebel camp, but whether these are true I do not know. I will update the Deputy on the position in respect of the Jerusalem issue based on Ms Ashton's report.

Nobody in this House condones the use of the much abused term "austerity" which has crept in the same way as "the Celtic tiger", but it is not a term I tend to use. The answer to our problems is not just to sort out the public finances but also to get people working, as the Deputy knows. I was happy to meet him in Dundalk recently on the occasion of the announcement of the PayPal and eBay jobs. That announcement was great for young people who will have a whole new life created for them in that kind of company. The same is true of the announcement made by Glanbia of a major investment in the south east, with the capacity to create 1,500 farm jobs, from County Cork to County Louth, or of the 1,000 jobs that will be created when the contract is finally signed for the N7-N11 project southwards. These announcements are great news for people who will be able to find employment in these areas because it means they will have a life and the capacity to spend in the economy and build homes.

At European level, the extension by an extra two years for France and other countries is a recognition of the particular circumstances these countries are facing in meeting the deficit reduction target of 2015. This is reflected in the warm decision made by the Bundestag to provide for an extension of loan maturities for both Portugal and Ireland, which helps us in having our debt profile flattened out. In the discussion Mr. Mario Draghi had at the European Council he continued to repeat - he has followed it up with action - that whatever it was necessary to do to protect the euro would be done. Obviously, the European Union makes its own decision on interest rates. Mr. Draghi's analysis was focused on competitiveness and he said countries that were prepared to make decisions to make themselves competitive would reap the benefits in terms of economic activity, exports, job creation and economic growth. He defined this by producing a series of relevant slides, showing the differences between countries that adhered to that discipline and those that did not. This was self evident.

As I said to Deputy Micheál Martin, it is critical that European leaders follow through on the decisions they make and these decisions are not made lightly. While it takes some time to deal with a question like banking union, it is something that must happen. I do not want to see a situation where we will get to June and the anniversary of the decision taken last year to break the link between sovereign and bank debt and all we will have in place is a single supervisory mechanism and its architecture. It is necessary to go beyond this. This is a credibility test for the European Union. Citizens want to see a follow-through on decisions made.

The unemployment factor is central to this issue. Who wants to be proclaiming that the unemployment rate is rising to the extent it is in some countries, with a 54% youth unemployment level? Deputy Gerry Adams says €6 billion is only a drop in the ocean, but it was not available before. Getting €6 billion from the paying countries is a recognition of the scale of the problem and the challenge faced. That is why our Presidency does not want to see this proposal drift or to see us end up with annualised budgeting because of the failure to get the multi-annual financial framework, MFF, through. We travelled to Brussels yesterday specifically to remove that road block and deal with a strategy to deal with the deficit for the Union for 2012-2013. Also, in parallel, we wanted to get discussions going on a timescale to conclude the MFF during Ireland's Presidency. This would hep to release the funds in question. While yesterday's meeting was not focused on this issue, countries being able to expedite the release of some of these funds to deal with particular circumstances was raised and is something we support strongly. As President, we will articulate this view today at the budgetary committee, tomorrow at COREPER and during Monday's meeting - the first formal discussion on the MFF. It will be conducted for us by the Tánaiste, with his counterpart, Mr. Lamassoure, from the European Parliament.

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